We’ve been told that when you go on a weight loss plan, invariably you’ll lose not only fats, of but also a chunk of your muscle mass. That’s certainly something we want to avoid, especially we work so hard to gain them also in the first place. Luckily, there are a few things we can do to not exactly stop it from happening, but perhaps mitigate the damage done. Here are 5 tips that might help you shed that fat away and keep more of your gains.
1. Be a beginner
For all of you, fresh gym goers learning the basics, you should feel fortunate to have the almighty ability to gain muscle and burn fat, virtually at the same time with little effort. This is largely due to the idiomatic events known as newbie gains. Basically, beginners have a long way to go to reach their genetic potential, your body’s going to preserve the relatively limited amount of muscle you have, especially with an abundance of store fat, present to use as energy. In short, any sort of training you do that is at least a bit challenging, even without reaching Maximal training intensities, have shown to stimulate muscle growth. So, first things first, be a beginner, if you can’t then let’s keep going.
2. Keep a tighter control of your calories
Weight loss is commonly achieved by sustaining a calorie deficit. Your total calorie intake from food is below that of all the factors which burns calories, that includes your basal metabolic rates, thermic effect of food, non-exercise activity thermogenesis and of course exercise. The problem that by many, is imposing a deficit that is too extreme, going on say a 1000 calorie cut, not only sucks, but it set your body into a nutrient lacking catabolic state, increasing the likelihood of muscle loss. The smart play here, is to take a more gradual approach, perhaps only cutting 500 calories or even only 250 calories, if you’re diligent enough to stick to your diet consistently. Sure, you’ll lose weight at a slower pace, but also preserve more of your muscle and maintain more your sanity. In other words, if you want to do it right, then be patients.
3. Get your protein
Common thinking would have you believe that since you need to eat less to lose weight, then that means, you need to eat less fat, fewer carbs and less protein, but proteins role in muscle growth and preservation has been well documented. There is a protein dose dependent affect to muscle protein synthesis. During weight loss, we might actually benefit from not less but more protein. A 2016 study supported this, for the found that eating 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight versus half as much, resulted in roughly the same amount of weight loss, but also significantly more fat loss and actually increased lean mass. Simply, we need adequate protein to feed our muscles. Bear in mind the amount varies depending on your fitness level. Overweight and less active individuals can simply eat the standard recommendation of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, eating more hasn’t shown to change much while athletes and leaner individuals though, should aim for more, due to their lower proportion of stored fats and higher susceptibility to muscle loss when losing weight. Some experts recommend 1.6 grams per kilogram or more in this case.
4. Do both cardio and resistance training
Cardio is one of the most dreaded words in the world of weight loss. It is indeed one of the better calories burning tools used to shed away the pounds, but for protecting your muscles not so much, that’s where resistance training comes in. Resistance training, be lifting weights or calisthenics is much better in stimulating all of your muscle fibers. The greater fiber stimulation, results in greater stimulation of pathways leading to muscle protein synthesis and preservation, keeping your muscles at bay, but resistance training alone isn’t going to cut it either, since it typically burns fewer calories.
As studies have shown, it’s when both cardio and resistance training are combined that we see an accelerated weight and fat loss, as well as a greater attenuation of muscle loss. Yes, it’ll suck a bit more having to do both, but the added work load will be worth it in the long run.
5. Cycle your food intake
This one is perhaps the most difficult endeavor on this list, but might be worth trying if you tried everything else. The concept is actually pretty simple, on some days, specifically days you don’t work out, you eat at a deficit by keeping your carb intake to a minimum, on other days or days where you do work out, you have much more flexibility with your cards, and shoot at a calorie surplus.
How it works?
This concept is more popularly known as carb cycling, the benefit is that you maximize muscle growth by giving your body enough nutrients to grow on days that you exercise, and then maximizing fat and weight loss by eating less on days where you rest and don’t need the additional nutrients. This also counteracts metabolic slowdown, commonly seen in long term calorie deficit.
Additionally, greater carb intake on training days leads to greater insulin levels, resulting in higher up take of nutrients and amino acids into the muscle to prevent muscle breakdown. Of course, simple in concept but not so simple an application. this requires quite meticulous planning to ensure that you get the right amount of carbs for any single day. For casuals, it’s already hard enough to maintain a simple weight loss plan and go to the gym. Now, imagine having to change up the plan each day. Perhaps for some, simply having a re-feed day, where you eat more than usual, might be good enough. For you hardcore and inspiring body builders though, carb cycling might just be the missing piece to your biceps shape puzzle.
And that wraps it up, let’s hear from you guys as well what are other tips you might have for those wanting to save all of their hard-earned muscle while still losing fat. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.